Paoletti: You can't play scared

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Paoletti: You can't play scared

INDIANAPOLIS -- "Messing up? You can't play this game scared to mess up."

Stephen Gostkowski drives the point home. After the AFC Championship he said didn't want to keep talking about Billy Cundiff. But later, safe at a Super Bowl media session, he acquiesced.

Thrill seekers wanted details.

Cundiff's moment was grotesque. The Patriots might have gone to the Super Bowl even if they'd had to play overtime against Baltimore, but they definitely went because the Ravens' kicker shanked the game-tying field goal.

32 Wide Left: A new spin on the Scott Norwood classic.

Super screw-ups. Game-changing failures that fans gnash their teeth over decades after the fact. Plays that, in the playoff clime of one-and-done, can turn an athlete's name into a curse word.

Understanding the fragility of circumstance is one of the ties that binds these athletes. It's about realizing how small the difference is between surrendering, or stopping, a game-winning touchdown; between kicking a routine chip shot or losing a playoff game with your foot.

As Gostkowski says, they can't play scared. They have to face their football mortality and move on.

"We're at the top of the professional level," he notes. "Everybody's had success before, everybody's dealt with failure before. It's the ones who get over the mistakes that play for a really long time."

The Patriots kicker didn't see Cundiff's miss. It was cold that night. When Gostkowski saw the Ravens' field-goal team trot out -- for a kickCundiff had practiced and executed so many times before --he busied himself warming up on New England's sideline for overtime.

"It's unfortunate. It's heartbreaking. This game is so publicized and so criticized . . . But that's just part of it," Gostkowski shrugs. "It humbles you to see that can happen to anybody; the guy was an All Pro last year. I'm 100 percent glad that we won, but I felt bad for him personally."

The reactions are not mutually exclusive; it's not simply, 'Better you than me.' Gostkowski started celebrating New England's Super Bowl berth as soon as he heard Patriots fans explode into cheers.

But Cundiff's condemnation as a goat brought Gostkowski no joy.

"It's one of the few things that I don't like about this job. We're so blessed, grateful for all the things that we've received, that we get to do, the job that we have. I feel bad, not only for the guys like Billy Cundiff and Kyle Williams that it happens to, but for the people that send those messages out.

"I know how hard the players work; they probably feel worse than any of those people who are saying stuff to them."

An estimated 173 million people will be watching the Super Bowl this Sunday.

"I'm trying to treat it just like any other game," says defensive back Sterling Moore, "not put too much pressure on myself, just trying to keep a level head. But of course, there's going to be a little bit more pressure when you look up in the stands and realize this is the last game of the season. Everybody's watching this game."

Patriots versus Giants: Gladiators in the ring. One false move and you could be over. And the fans always go nuts for a kill-strike.

So it goes in the entertainment industry.

The Patriots want to fight, want to win. But their perspective of the sport, watching from the windows of their NFL fraternity, is different. Special teams captain Matthew Slater says it must be.

"At the end of the day, football doesn't define who we are. The type of character that we live our lives with off the field is really all that matters. This is a game -- a game that we love and put a lot into -- but it doesn't define who you are as a man. It's important to remember that."

Never more important than on Super Bowl Sunday. And never more difficult to do so.

Bruins don't extend qualifying offer to Joe Morrow

Bruins don't extend qualifying offer to Joe Morrow

With free agency just around the corner, the Bruins have officially cut ties with former first-round pick and last bastion of the Tyler Seguin trade, Joe Morrow.

The 24-year-old Edmonton native arrived in Boston along with Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser in exchange for Seguin when he was shipped to Dallas, and now all of those players have moved on from Boston as well. Boston does still carry Jimmy Hayes on their roster, a player traded from Florida in exchange for Smith, as a last remnant of the Seguin deal, but it isn't expected to be too long before Hayes moves on from Boston as well.  

The B’s announced on Monday afternoon that they hadn’t extended a qualifying offer to Morrow, as well as P-Bruins power forward Colton Hargrove, as a restricted free agent, and that both B’s youngsters were now free to sign with any of the 30 NHL teams as free agents.

The Bruins extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents in Noel Acciari, Linus Arnesson, Austin Czarnik, Zane McIntyre, David Pastrnak, Tim Schaller, Ryan Spooner and Malcolm Subban, and will retain the associated team rights with all of those players. Negotiations are ongoing between the Bruins and Pastrnak continue over a long term deal that would put him in the same $6 million plus per season level as teammate Brad Marchand, but one source with knowledge of the negotiations indicated it’s “not close” to being a done deal.

Some RFA’s like Spooner and Subban might not necessarily fit into the long term plan for the Black and Gold, but they need to maintain their rights if they hope to trade them as valued assets down the line.

Morrow never put together the talent that made him a former first-round pick while he was in Boston, and totaled just one assist in 17 games for the B’s before playing well in five playoff games after getting pushed into duty due to injuries. In all Morrow finished with two goals and nine points along with a minus-8 rating in 65 games over three seasons in Boston, but could never string together an extended run of consistent play at the NHL level.

With the Bruins in the market to bring on another left-shot defenseman into the Boston fold this summer, it was pretty clear that the time had come to move on from Morrow while allowing him to potentially develop as an NHL D-man elsewhere. 

Tom Brady claims No. 1 spot on NFL's top 100 list

Tom Brady claims No. 1 spot on NFL's top 100 list

The NFL Network revealed the final 10 players on its annual Top 100 list Monday night and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished in the No. 1 spot.

On NFL.com, the Top 100 list is described as the answer to the question, "Who are the top 100 players in the NFL today?" If that's the criteria -- and not simply performance in 2016 -- then Watt's complaint actually doesn't hold much water. If he's healthy, no one would argue that he's one of the best 35 players "in the NFL today."

Several Patriots players made the cut on this year's list: Rob Gronkowski (No. 23), LeGarrette Blount (No. 80), Julian Edelman (No. 71), Dont'a Hightower (No. 94) and Malcolm Butler (No. 99). 

Brady was also voted in as the No. 1 player back in 2011.